Saturday, March 27, 2010

Divided Government

Many very smart, self-described independents or centrists enjoy touting the idea that divided government is the answer to all our woes. The idea is that forcing the president to compromise with a congress from the other party, you get centrist solutions to big problems. Sounds good in theory, but how does it work in practice? The Brookings institute had a discussion about it.

My view: put down the crack pipe. How much did George W Bush get done in 2007 and 2008? Not a whole lot. People point to the Clinton presidency, but his big budget was in '93, and welfare reform is a quintessentially conservative idea. "Get those welfare queens off their asses and back to work!" Do you think the GOP can back down from its rhetoric and actually try to work with the president, even if they hold the levers of power after this November? They've made it impossible to compromise.

Going by what I can tell of GOP policy positions, any attempt by the Obama administration to tackle immigration would have no amnesty and would probably include more walls and fences on the border, any attempt to tackle climate change would be rebranded as energy independence and mostly consist of drilling for more oil and natural gas, and any attempt at deficit reduction wouldn't actually do anything to the deficit. Seriously, you can't tackle the deficit without tackling health reform and defense spending.

Anything to the left of these positions has been roundly demonized by the Republican party. The Democratic party has been proposing solutions that would be center-right in any other industrialized nation, and has been called socialist. I don't see how compromise is going to happen. The GOP position for compromise has been "take our ideas and throw yours out." That's not how it works.

At the end of the day, if the GOP takes back the House and/or the Senate in 2010, my money is on them doubling down on a strategy of obstruction. It worked, right? Obama will get very little done in the second half of his presidency. Most legislation that is passed will be small and compromised to the point of uselessness, like this joke of a "jobs bill." At a time when our country has big problems, we're only going to get small solutions.

(Hat Tip to attackerman's guest blogger for the Brookings link)

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